Fed Man 55: The Next New Thing (6)
Mike Sutter’s Top 55 Austin Restaurants
No. 6: The Next New Thing
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.20.12
Like Elijah at the feast, the hyperkinetic Austin restaurant culture requires that we save a seat for the Next New Thing. It’s the engine that drives our renaissance, the magnetic pulse that draws the national tastemakers. It’s the reason “Top Chef” gave us a season, the bait for Bourdain and Zimmern, the weight behind our place on lists of the nation’s best barbecue, chefs, bakers, sushi bars, sommeliers or mac and cheese. We’re not just getting new chain restaurants, we’re getting the channeled energy of people making names for themselves. By themselves, none of these restaurants have been open long enough to make the Top 10. Collectively, they declare that good things are on the way — or opened yesterday. And their time will come.
The best of the most recent openings
These opened too late to be part of the Fed Man 55, but they're already making waves.
► 1. Ramen Tastu-ya. Nothing beats this North Austin noodle shop for sheer bootstrap moxie. It seems we’ll stand in line for anything these days, but Ramen Tastu-ya awakened a yearning for Japanese soup we didn’t even know we had. The pearled pork broth of the original tonkotsu delivers pork belly, marinated egg and mushroom, but the sesame power of the miso bowl will get you past the fear of slurping in public. 8557 Reasearch Blvd., No. 126. 512-339-0855, www.ramen-tatsuya.com.
► 2. Sway. It wasn’t enough for La Condesa chef Rene Ortiz to bring the food of cosmopolitan Mexico to Austin. He had to do the same with Thai. A $45 chef’s tasting will introduce you to the simple joys of tom kha gai soup and the green peppercorn exotica of jungle curry with Wagyu tri-tip. 1417 S. First St. 512-326-1999, www.swayaustin.com.
► 3. Restaurant Jezebel. Fiercely independent chef Parind Vora lost his Congress Avenue Jezebel to a fire. He’s come roaring back on West Sixth with a prix-fixe menu he tailors to each client. Fish, game, caviar, foie gras, vegan. It’s all part of the $85-$125 price of admission, a show worth watching just to hear the reaction to his jackets-required dress code. In the Cirrus Logic Building at 800 W. Sixth St. 512-436-9643, www.restaurantjezebel.com.
► 4. Clark’s Oyster Bar. Having made their mark downtown with Lamberts and on South Congress with Perla’s, chefs Larry McGuire and Tommy Moorman Jr. set their sights on Clarksville in the former Portabla space with this bright seafood grill and raw oyster bar, where a dozen with a beer will set you back more than $40, caviar starts at $30 and runs to $185 and a bowl of cioppino is $32. But already it’s the best bowl of fisherman’s stew in town. 1200 W. Sixth St. 512-297-2525, www.clarksoysterbar.com.
► 5. East Side King at the Hole in the Wall. When Paul Qui was “just a cook” at Uchi, he and two co-workers put together a trailer called East Side King, trading in street food with wide Asian influences: fried chicken with sweet chile sauce, pork belly in steam buns, fried beets. Then everything about Paul Qui expanded: he opened Uchiko as its executive chef, he won Bravo’s “Top Chef,” he began planning a place of his own and he grew the East Side King fleet to three. ESK Hole in the Wall is No. 4, this time with a roof over its head and chicken tortilla ramen on the menu. 2538 Guadalupe St. 512-431-2698, www.eskaustin.com.
Other recent openings of note
► Cherry Street, an Italian restaurant from the Peche team, including chef Jason Dodge. 1612 Lavaca St. 512-284-9954, www.cherrystreetaustin.com.
► Freedmen’s, a bar and barbecue operation in an historic West Campus building. 2402 San Gabriel St. www.facebook.com/Freedmens.
► The Goodnight, a high-concept bowling alley and restaurant in the HighBall model. 2700 W. Anderson Lane. 512-459-5000, www.thegoodnightaustin.com.
► Gourdough’s Public House, a brick-and-mortar doughnut diner expanding on the celebrated Airstream Trailer. In the old Kerbey Lane Cafe space at 2700 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-912-9070, www.gourdoughspub.com.
► Henri’s, a cheese, wine, charcuterie and sandwich shop. 2026 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-442-3373, www.henrischeese.com.
► Lucky Robot, a Japanese restaurant with iPad menus from the Zen team. 1303 S. Congress Ave. 512-444-8081, www.luckyrobotrestaurant.com.
► Pelons, a Tex-Mex restaurant in the longtime home of Jaime’s Spanish Village. 802 Red River St. 512-243-7874, www.pelonsaustin.com.
► Pinthouse Pizza, a pizzeria and brewhouse dedicated to hops-forward American interpretations of classic beers. 4729 Burnet Road. 512-436-9605, www.pinthousepizza.com.
► Russian House, bringing the food, the vodka and the eccentricities of that enigmatic culture. 307 E. Fifth St. 512-428-5442, www.russianhouseofaustin.com.
► Steakhouses, including Rivals on East Fifth, Bob’s Steak & Chop House on Lavaca and Willie G’s, coming to the former McCormick & Schmick’s space in the Frost Tower.
On the horizon
► “Top Chef” winner Paul Qui’s flagship restaurant on East Sixth Street. (Correction: An earlier version of this story said the restaurant would be on South Lamar.)
► A French restaurant called Arro from the 24 Diner/Easy tiger group. (March 2013 update: Arro has announced it will take over the space on West Sixth Street occupied by Haddingtons, which closed in March.)
► Mettle, an East Side bistro from Rainey Street impresario Bridget Dunlap, with former Olivia chef Andrew Francisco.
► A French Quarter diner in the former home of Arkie’s Grill.
► A third Uchi, this one promising to be a casual adaptation of the Japanese fusion formula.
► The brick-and-mortar rebirth of Bryce Gilmore’s Odd Duck trailer.
► The reopening of West Austin fine-dining fixture Jeffrey’s under chef and dynasty-builder Larry McGuire.
► Mastman’s Deli on West Sixth Street.
► Épicerie Café & Grocery, a French restaurant on Hancock Drive.
► Schmidt Family Barbecue in Bee Cave, from the offspring of a famously feuding Lockhart barbecue family.
(TOP: The line at Ramen Tatsu-ya, the dining room at Restaurant Jezebel (left) and jungle curry at Sway. FIRST INSET: Cioppino at Clark's Oyster Bar. SECOND INSET: Chicken tortilla ramen at East Side King at the Hole in the Wall. Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55: Austin’s Best Restaurants